Gilgit-Baltistan (Urdu: گلگت – بلتستان, formerly known as the Northern Areas (Urdu: شمالی علاقہ جات, Shumālī Ilāqe Jāt)), is the northernmost political entity within Pakistan. It borders Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province to the west, Afghanistan‘s Wakhan Corridor to the north, China to the northeast, Azad Kashmir to the south, and Jammu & Kashmir State of India to the southeast. Gilgit-Baltistan covers an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²) and is highly mountainous. It has an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. Its administrative center is the city of Gilgit (population 216,760).
The territory became a single administrative unit in 1970 under the name Northern Areas and was formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar. Pakistan considers the territory separate from Kashmir, whereas India and the European Union consider the territory as a part of the larger disputed territory of Kashmir that has been in dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947.
|Gilgit-Baltistan گلگت – بلتستان|
|— Administrative Unit —|
|Location of Gilgit-Baltistan (red)|
|Established||1 July 1970|
|– Type||Autonomous territory of Pakistan|
|– Body||Legislative Assembly|
|– Governor||Pir Karam Ali Shah|
|– Chief Minister||Syed Mehdi Shah|
|– Total||72,496 km2 (27,990.9 sq mi)|
|Population (2008; est.)|
|– Density||24.8/km2 (64.3/sq mi)|
|Time zone||PKT (UTC+5)|
|ISO 3166 code||PK-NA|
Rock art and petroglyphsHistory
There are more than 50,000 pieces of rock art (petroglyphs) and inscriptions all along theKarakoram Highway in Gilgit-Baltistan, concentrated at ten major sites between Hunza andShatial. The carvings were left by various invaders, traders, and pilgrims who passed along the trade route, as well as by locals. The earliest date back to between 5000 and 1000BCE, showing single animals, triangular men and hunting scenes in which the animals are larger than the hunters. These carvings were pecked into the rock with stone tools and are covered with a thick patina that proves their age. The ethnologist Karl Jettmar has pieced together the history of the area from various inscriptions and recorded his findings in Rock Carvings and Inscriptions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan and the later releasedBetween Gandhara and the Silk Roads – Rock Carvings Along the Karakoram Highway.Many of these carvings and inscriptions will be inundated and/or destroyed when the planned Basha-Diamir dam is built and the Karakoram Highway widened.
Before the independence of Pakistan and the partition of India in 1947, Maharaja Hari Singhextended his rule to Gilgit and Baltistan. After the partition, Jammu and Kashmir, in its entirety, remained an independent state. The Pakistani parts of Kashmir to the north and west of the cease-fire line established at the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, or theLine of Control as it later came to be called, were divided into the Northern Areas (72,971 km²) in the north and the Pakistani state of Azad Kashmir (13,297 km²) in the south. The name “Northern Areas” was first used by the United Nations to refer to the northern areas of Kashmir. A small part of the Northern Areas, the Shaksgam tract, was provisionally ceded by Pakistan to the People’s Republic of China in 1963.
Gilgit-Baltistan, which was most recently known as the Northern Areas, presently consists of seven districts, has a population approaching one million, has an area of approximately 28,000 square miles (73,000 km2), and shares borders with Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, and India. The people of this remote region were liberated from the Dogra regime of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir on 1 November 1947 with the help of the Pakistani army and then became citizens of a self-liberated and very short-lived independent state (17 days only). The new state asked the government of Pakistan to provide it with necessary assistance with which to conduct its affairs, as it did not have the necessary administrative infrastructure of its own. The government of Pakistan accepted the request and sent Sardar Muhammad Alam Khan, an extra assistant commissioner from the NWFP, to Gilgit. Sardar Muhammad Alam Khan then took control of the territory’s administration as its first appointed political agent.
The local Northern Light Infantry is the army unit that was believed to have assisted and possibly participated in the 1999 Kargil conflict. More than 500 soldiers were believed to have been killed and buried in the Northern Areas in that action. Lalak Jan, an Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim(Nizari) soldier from Yasin Valley, was awarded Pakistan’s most prestigious medal, the Nishan-e-Haider, for his courageous actions during the Kargil conflict.
Autonomous status and present-day Gilgit-Baltistan
On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the country’s President. The order granted self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly. There has been criticism and opposition to this move in Pakistan, India, and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement—while rejecting the new package—demanded that an independent and autonomous legislative assembly for Gilgit-Baltistan should be formed with the installation of local authoritative government as per the UNCIP resolutions, where the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will elect their president and the prime minister.
In early September 2009, Pakistan signed an agreement with the People’s Republic of China for a mega energy project in Gilgit-Baltistan which includes the construction of a 7,000-megawatt dam at Bunji in the Astore District. This also resulted in protest from India, although Indian concerns were immediately rejected by Pakistan, which claimed that the Government of India has no locus standi in the matter.
On 29 September 2009, the Pakistani Prime Minister, while addressing a huge gathering in Gilgit-Baltistan, announced a multi-billion rupee development package aimed at the socio-economic uplifting of people in the area. Development projects will include the areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism and the basic needs of life. The Prime Minister further went on to say:
“You are getting your identity today. It is your right and has been your demand, and today we are fulfilling it.”
Map of Gilgit-Baltistan, showing the boundaries of the six previous districts and their tehsils. The boundary between the recently created Hunza-Nagar District and the now smaller Gilgit District is the same line as the northern boundary of the former Gilgit Tehsil, which is the southernmost division of the area shown above in light blue. Sikanderabad, the administrative center of the new Hunza-Nagar District, is not yet shown on this map.
Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into seven districts, including the two Baltistan districts of Skardu and Ghanche, and the five Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Astore, and Hunza-Nagar. The main political centres are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.
|Division||District||Area (km²)||Population (1998)||Headquarters|
|Gilgit-Baltistan totals||7 districts||72,971||970,347||Gilgit|
Geography and climate
Rakaposhi Peak from Taghafari Base Camp
|Elevation||7,788 m (25,551 ft) Ranked 27th(12th in Pakistan)|
|Prominence||2,818 m (9,245 ft)|
Rakaposhi (Räkapoşi) (Urdu: راکا پہشئ, Hindi: राकापोशी) is a mountain in theKarakoram mountain range in Pakistan. It is situated in the Nagar Valley approximately 100 km north of the city of Gilgit. Rakaposhi means “Snow Covered” in the local language. Rakaposhi is also known as Dumani (“Mother of Mist”). It is ranked 27th highest in the world and 12th highest in Pakistan, but it is more popular for its beauty than its rank might suggest.
Rakaposhi was first climbed in 1958 by Mike Banks and Tom Patey, members of aBritish–Pakistani expedition, via the Southwest Spur/Ridge route. Both of them suffered minor frostbite during the ascent. Another climber slipped and fell on the descent and died during the night.
Gilgi-Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world’s highest mountain ranges—the main ranges are the Karakoram and the western Himalayas. The Pamir mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.
Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan — theBiafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier. There are, in addition, several high-altitude lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan:
The climate of Gilgit-Baltistan varies from region to region, surrounding mountain ranges creates sharp variations in weather. The eastern part has the moist zone of the western Himalayas, but going toward Karakoram and Hindu Kush the climate dries considerably.
There are towns like Gilgit and Chilas that are very hot during the day in summer, yet cold at night, and valleys like Astore, Khaplu, Yasin,Hunza, and Nagar where the temperatures are cold even in summer.
Economy and resources
The economy of region is basically based on traditional route of trade through Silk Road. China Trade organization was the leading economic forum through which most of barter trade activity made a phenomenal change in the general economical outlook of the area which being the remotest region of Pakistan was neglected for over quarter of century. This forum led the people of the area to actively invest and learn the modern trade know how from its neighbor Xingkiang. The participation of the all ethnic groups and active force behind this activity, legendary economist of the area Ashraf Khan brought a great change in the region. Later the establishment of Chamber of commerce and SOst dry port(in Gojal Hunza) are milestones. Rest of the economy is shouldered by mainly agriculture and tourism. Agriculture such as: wheat, corn (maize), barley, fruits; Tourism is mostly in trekking and mountaineering and this industry is ‘growing in importance’
Polo is the favourite game of the people of Gilgit, Chilas, Astore, Hunza, Nagar and the surrounding areas. Every year, many tourists visit to enjoy polo in Gilgit-Baltistan. Other games such as cricket, Tuksori of Nagar, gulli danda, kabbadi, and volleyballare also played.
Prior to 1978, Gilgit-Baltistan was cut off from Pakistan and rest of the world due to the harsh terrain and the lack of accessible roads. All of the roads to the south opened towards the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AKJ) and to the southeast towards the present-day Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir. During the summer, people could walk across the mountain passes to travel to Rawalpindi. The fastest way to travel, however, was by air, but air travel was accessible only to a few privileged local people and to Pakistani military and civilian officials. Then, with the assistance of the Chinese government, Pakistan began construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which was completed in 1978. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) connects Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu, which are the two major hubs for mountaineering expeditions in Gilgit-Baltistan. The journey from Islamabad to Gilgit takes approximately 20 to 24 hours. Landslides on the Karakoram Highway are very common. The KKH connects Gilgit to Tashkurgan and Kashgar in China via Sust (the customs and health inspection post on the Northern Areas side) and the Khunjerab Pass, the highest paved international border crossing in the world at 4,693 metres (15,397 feet).
Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) offers bus and jeep transport service to the two hubs and several other popular destinations, lakes, and glaciers in the area.
In March 2006, the respective governments announced that, commencing on June 1, 2006, a thrice-weekly bus service would begin across the boundary from Gilgit to Kashgar, China, and road widening work would begin on 600 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway. There would also be one daily bus in each direction between the Sust and Tashkurgan border areas of the two political entities.
Pakistan International Airlines used to fly a Fokker F27 aircraft daily between Gilgit Airport andIslamabad International Airport. The flying time was approximately 50 minutes,dand the flight was one of the most scenic flights in the world, as its route passed over the mountain Nanga Parbat, the peak of which was higher than the aircraft’s cruising altitude. PIA also offers regular flights ofBoeing 737 between Skardu and Islamabad. However, the Fokker F27 aircraft was retired after a crash at Multan in 2006. Currently, flights are being operated by PIA to Gilgit on the brand-new ATR42-500 aircraft, which was purchased in 2006. With the new plane, the cancellation of flights is much less than it was the Fokker aircraft. All flights, however, are subject to weather clearance, and, in winter, flights are often delayed by several days.
The population consists of many diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups, due in part to the many isolated valleys separated by some of the world’s highest mountains. The population of this area is a mixture of many ethnic groups such as Shins, Yashkuns, Kashmiris, Kashgaris, Pathans,and Kohistanis. Ismailism is present here, unlike in the rest of Pakistan.[2Urdu is the lingua franca of the region, understood by most of the inhabitants. The Shina language (with several dialects like Asturjaa, Kharuchaa, chilasi) is the language of 60% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, Astore throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer. The Balti dialect, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of theTibetan languages group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan. Minor languages spoken in the region include Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer, while Khowar is the language of Ghizer. Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar , Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal. Another interesting language isDomaaki, spoken by the musician clans in the region. A small minority ofand Baltistan was 870,347.Approximately 14% of the population was urban.